Swedish researchers are using virtual reality (VR) to imagine what an ornately decorated house in Pompeii might have looked like before its destruction in 79 CE, reports Ariel David for Ha’aretz. As Danilo M. Campanaro and Giacomo Landeschi, both archaeologists at Lund University, write in the journal antiquitythe ongoing project aims to shed light on Roman architectural practices by showing how ancient visitors would have experienced the estate.
To create the VR model of the so-called House of Epigrams, the duo were inspired by data from Lund’s Swedish Pompeii Project, which “uses drones and laser scanners to map an entire neighborhood of the ancient city”, according to Sarah Cascone from clean art. The archaeologists then plugged their VR recreation into the Unity video game engine, which also hosts Pokémon Go.
Discovered in the 1870s, the Maison des Épigrammes takes its name from the mythical frescoes and inscriptions that adorn its walls. Researchers speculate that the house belonged to a man named Lucius Valerius Flaccus, whose signet ring was found in the ruins.
the house, or house, was clearly the residence of an important patrician family. According to Ha’aretz, excavations at the site yielded approximately 160 household artifacts, including jewelry, bronze and clay lamps, a set of silverware, and a panpipe. Two stories tall, the building was designed to impress.
“Work and daily activities intermingled during the day,” Campanaro said in a statement. “The house communicated to people the personal power and status of the owner and his family.”
Campanaro and Landeschi wanted to understand How? ‘Or’ What the impressive design of the house functioned, in other words, how visitors would have seen and interacted with it. The co-authors simulated this experiment by having volunteers “walk” around the house under two different lighting scenarios: dawn at the winter solstice or noon at the summer solstice. To map the “visual impressions” of these volunteers, in the words of ART news‘ Shanti Escalante-De Mattei, the pair recorded three data points with eye-tracking technology: the position of the user’s head (gaze), what the users’ eyes focused on when they were relatively immobile (fixation) and the duration of each session (event).
the antiquity study outlines the researchers’ methodology but leaves the specific results of their study largely ignored. Campanaro and Landeschi plan to offer more detailed analysis in a future article, but for now they just say Ha’aretz that the best decorations, paintings and architecture were reserved for areas of the house that were accessible only to the owner’s closest friends and family.
This allowed them to perform experiments where they measure the visual attention of volunteers as they visit the house, tracking what caught their attention. 7/
A visitor’s journey (in yellow) and what caught their attention (in red) pic.twitter.com/RVDnoRZcl4
— Journal of Antiquity (@AntiquityJ) March 24, 2022
“[T]his study show[s] how the owner of the house stimulated the visitor’s senses to convey a message of his power and wealth,” Campanaro explained in the statement.
Eventually, the team’s findings could add to the list of architectural techniques used in the design of Roman houses.. According to the statement, previous research has shown that some previous homeowners used sloping walls and raised floors to make their home interiors appear larger to passers-by looking through the front door. Next, the researchers say they could expand the VR experience to incorporate simulated smells and sounds.
“Virtual reality is often used to enhance the visitor experience at a museum or archaeological site,” says Landeschi. Ha’aretz. “It’s a very noble goal, but we wanted to show that along with other technologies, it can be used as a research tool rather than just an educational tool.”